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Many merchants with affiliate programs are focused solely on the activity that can be conducted on a web site. But web sites aren't the only places to conduct an affiliate program. Web sites can only generate a small amount of traffic and sales; they're an important facet of affiliate marketing, but this passive method is neither the only method nor the most effective method for optimizing the potential of affiliate marketing for your company.

Using email, you can take a more proactive approach to affiliate marketing. Email affiliate programs have recently emerged as a significant player in the industry. Barnes & Noble was the first merchant to use the Be Free B-Intouch program. With its MybnLink program, even individuals without a web site could participate in an affiliate program by adding a link to their email. With a service like B-Intouch, a merchant can make anyone with an email address an e-marketer for their company.

It works like this. When a person signs up for a Barnes & Noble MybnLink program, they place a small snippet of code in the signature of their email. This small piece of code calls the B-Intouch program from Be Free, which automatically inserts a promotion for Barnes & Noble at the bottom of an email message. If the recipient of the email clicks through to Barnes & Noble's web site and buys a product, the sender of the email gets a commission. It's quick, simple, and easy. The merchant gets the sale and the email sender gets a commission.

But why stop at text links in the signature field? With the growth of HTML-enabled email, complete images can be tagged at the end of mail messages, imploring the recipient to click the image offer for discounts or special deals on a product or service. It can also be used to direct the recipient to surveys and free offers, where the recipient's email address can be captured and then marketed to at some later date.

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